A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published July 11th 2018
Sensational scenic parks and waterways in Sydney's north
Sydney is famous for its harbour, but there are many other waterways north of the city to be explored. The northern reaches of land jut like fingers into the Hawkesbury River region, Cowan Creek, and Pittwater. What makes it all so special is its accessibility. Just 30 - 40 minutes north of the city centre, you can hike trails in pristine bushland, kayak secluded coves, picnic in parks or just plonk yourself at some spectacular lookout and soak it all in. Here are my favourite spots:
BEROWRA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Berowra Waters is 15 minutes north of Hornsby, just off the F3 and adjacent to the northern railway line. Catch a toll-free ferry from Galston or Berowra to explore the area by car. Hire a bar-b-que boat for a unique picnic, or stay a few days and soak in the spectacular scenery. This bush-walkers paradise has over 70km of walking tracks, including portions of the Great North Walk. Check out Crosslands Reserve and Barnetts Lookout which has wheelchair access and views across the Berowra Valley.
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park fringe all the waters north of Sydney
KU-RING-GAI CHASE NATIONAL PARK This majestic sprawl of great Aussie bush was proclaimed in 1894 and is NSW's second-oldest park. In the late 1800's English patron of exploration and arts, Eccleston du Faur campaigned to protect the area from commercial flower pickers and preserve it for future generations. Consequently, over one hundred years later tourists and locals have access to a very special part of Sydney and Australia. Bobbin Head was named after a large rock on the headland which appeared to bob with the tides. It is the upper-most point of Cowan Creek, which winds its way gently deep into the park. There are walking trails, peaceful picnic grounds, playgrounds and hiking trails, or hire a paddle boat and do a spot of fishing. It's accessible by road or ferry from Palm Beach. West Head is the northern tip of land just across the Pittwater from Barrenjoey Lighthouse. The most spectacular views are from West Head Lookout. The visual feast takes in Broken Bay, Pittwater, across to Lion Island and Umina and Patonga beaches. Check out Resolute Picnic area, have a swim at Resolute Beach and explore Red Hands Cave - part of the Aboriginal Heritage Walk. Akuna Bay and Cottage Point are small townships halfway between Bobbin Head and West Head. Both can be accessed by West Head Road or by boat. Both have coffee shops, picnic areas and ramps to launch a canoe or kayak.
This special piece of land is only open to the public for six weekends a year, from mid-August to mid-September. The range of wildflowers in Spring is spectacular and includes waratahs, protea, banksia, flannel flower, and native orchids. You might even spot an echidna or wedge-tailed eagle. There are plenty of vantage points to take in the stunning views over the Hawkesbury River and nearby islands. You can do a self-guided walking tour, or join a tour group to gain a deeper appreciation of this very special reserve.
KU-RING-GAI WILDFLOWER GARDEN Okay, not technically a waterway, but there are waterfalls, ponds, gullies and sandstone outcrops. It's also one of the best places to enjoy wild-flowers in Spring. Situated at 420 Mona Vale Road, St. Ives, this urban bushland covers 123 hectares. There are a variety of walks, some with disabled access, bench seats, a covered pavilion and picnic areas to enjoy. As it attracts a variety of wildlife and has an in-house Ranger, there is a Junior Ranger club or Toddlers and Tadpoles playtime. The Wildflower Garden Festival is on 26 August 2018, and keep a watch out for the resident wallabies.
Stunning and iconic Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach
BARRENJOEY LIGHTHOUSE Built-in 1881 from sandstone on site, this heritage-listed lighthouse is at the very tip of Sydney's northern isthmus. It's a moderate 30-minute walk from the carpark near Palm Beach surf-club to the top of the headland and your reward is spectacular 360-degree views over the Pacific Ocean, Pittwater and nearby western foreshores of Patonga and Lion Island. Guided tours run every Sunday at 11am, and afterwards have a swim at the surf beach where television series Home and Away is filmed.
THE RIVERBOAT POSTMAN Join the local postie as he delivers the mail to water-access-only residences along the upper Hawkesbury River. Leaving from the Mail Shed at Brooklyn, Monday - Friday at 10am, you'll get a lively commentary and the very best morning cuppa and Anzac biscuits. You'll pass by Dangar Island and visit some of Sydney's most remote residences. This is Australia's last remaining mail-boat in operation and bookings are essential on 0400 600 111.
For an absolute treat, check out Calabash Bay Lodge, spectacularly situated on absolute waterfront land in Berowra Valley National Park. For the more budget-conscious, you can still surround yourself in the great Aussie bush at Pittwater Youth Hostel. There is no shop or road access, so bring your own supplies. Catch a ferry from Church Point wharf and enjoy a spectacular weekend escape from the city without leaving the city!
CHURCH POINT This quiet corner of Pittwater is tucked away between Bayview and West Head. Home to artists and authors, the sublime waters are perfect for boats of all shapes and sizes. If you don't own one, hire one, or jump on the ferry service to visit Scotland Island. Explore the western foreshores of Elvina Bay and Lovett Bay, made famous by author Susan Duncan's book Salvation Creek. The historic post office and General Store is the hub and heart of the place and the perfect place for a spot of coffee and lunch, or pick up supplies for a picnic. You'll feel like you're sitting somewhere in the Mediterranean as you get lost in time and the passing parade of yacht masts. The Pasadena, a majestic old building, is currently being restored to provide accommodation, but meanwhile, perch on their waterside porch and pretend you're somewhere else. I do.
Narrabeen Lagoon opens to the ocean at Narrabeen beach
NARRABEEN LAGOON This State Park is only 30-40 minutes north of the CBD and comprises a coastal lagoon which empties into the Pacific Ocean at Narrabeen beach. Best access is along the Wakehurst Parkway, with parking areas, toilet facilities, picnic areas and playgrounds available. A multi-use walking trail circumnavigates the lagoon, is wheelchair friendly, and is one of the best places to see water birds. Black swans, pelicans, cormorants, ducks, herons and gulls call the lagoon home. Along the eastern shores, a shopping strip has coffee shops, ramps to launch your kayak, or hire a paddle boat and explore all the way to the mouth at the nearby caravan park.
But don't stop there. Around every bend in the road or curve of coastline, there's another spectacular spot just waiting for you.